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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Volunteer (11/23/06)

TITLE: Sanity Not Required
By Allison Egley


The phone rang just as we were sitting down for dinner.


"Hello, Sharon. This is Mrs. Cunningham, Cody's teacher."

"Oh, Hi Mrs. Cunningham," I said, emphasizing her name while staring Cody down. He disappeared underneath the table.

"Don't worry. Cody's not in trouble."

"Well, I'm glad he's not in trouble," I replied, peering under the table and looking at my son.

"I was wondering if you would consider volunteering to be in charge of our next class party. You would recruit other moms to help you, and as a group you would plan the class Christmas party."

"Well... I...."

"Thank you so much! I'll send the information you need with Cody tomorrow. Bye!" Click.

I stood there stunned, still holding the phone in my hand. "Actually, I was going to say I didn't think I could do it right now, but thanks for listening." My answer was an annoying beeping as the phone complained that the other party had hung up long ago.

"What did Mrs. Cunningham want, Mom," Cody asked.

"Apparently I volunteered to be in charge of your class Christmas party."

My husband chuckled. "Doesn't 'volunteer' normally mean you're willing to do it?"

I began to protest. "Hey, I never said I'd actually do it. I'm going to write her a note explaining I simply can't do it."

The next day, as Cody walked in the door, I asked him if he had given Mrs. Cunningham my note.

"I tried to, but she wouldn't read it. She told me you didn't need to thank her for this wonderful opportunity. Here's the information you'll need," he said, handing me an oversized file folder the size of a textbook.

"Well, this should be fun, right? You'll help me, Cody?"

Cody looked at me as if I were crazy. "You know, I think I'm going to be buried in homework until the party. Sorry Mom."

Smart boy.

The first page of the enormous packet was a list of phone numbers for the other parents. I began calling. After ten straight answers of "no," I was beginning to see the benefits of Mrs. Cunningham's technique. But I refused to stoop to her level. I wouldn't trick parents into helping. I'd simply beg and whine until they gave in.

After going through the entire list, I only had one more helper. But I had the begging and whining part down. I called the first ten people again. Two more finally agreed, although I think it was because they feared for my mental health if they didn't comply; I did, after all, resort to serenading them with "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."

After three planning meetings, four hours of baking, five hours of buying and making decorations and favors, and six hours discussing whose child was best, we were finally ready.

The day of the party arrived. We made a stunning Christmas tree background so we could take their pictures and print them off with a digital camera and portable printer. Then they could make it into an adorable ornament for the Christmas tree; the kind parents love to embarrass their kids with when they are thirty. We underestimated the force of twenty-six third graders. I don't think a semi-automatic shotgun could have destroyed it with more efficiency. Maybe we could just take their pictures with the bare shrub outside.

Next it was time for the annual caroling parade. We began our parade by singing "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night." Somehow, these songs lose a bit of their meaning when a group of boys decides to sing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" instead. We weren't even through the first verse of "Silent Night" before we lost the whole class to runaway reindeer. Thirty minutes and twenty rounds of that retched song later, we were back in the classroom. There was only one problem. We now had twenty-seven children. One was significantly smaller than the others. A kindergartener decided to follow her older brother around the school.

Next it was time to eat all the snacks we had brought. Watching those kids eat, I thought none of them had eaten for a week. I'm also convinced that the time it takes for the sugar rush to occur is inversely proportional to the number of children involved. In other words, the more children involved, the faster the sugar rush occurs.

Later that night, my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas. I had only two words: "My sanity."

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This article has been read 1085 times
Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood11/30/06
I loved this story--great dialogue, description, and especially humor! Could see everything happening. Great job!
Betty Castleberry12/01/06
This is precious. Thanks for the smiles. My favorite line:
if they didn't comply; I did, after all, resort to serenading them with "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."
Nicely done.
Joanne Sher 12/01/06
Such fun - and the PERFECT title! I enjoyed the humor throughout, and the wonderful descriptions of all it takes to put on one of those things! Delightful.
Amy Nicholson12/01/06
This was fun story to which many of us can relate. Well-written, too.
Peggy Bennitt12/01/06
I loved this! One misused word threw me off though, I think you meant wretched, not "retched. Or, maybe not, given the story. This was a fun read! Thanks!
dub W12/03/06
Well done, full of empathy, I am sure many others recognize the event and the chore. Thank you.
Amy Michelle Wiley 12/03/06
Hehehe. Wonder how many years it took before the teacher figured out that technique. LOL! Great story.
Marilyn Schnepp 12/04/06
A witty story on "volunteering"...er, ah..perhaps Forced Volunteering would be more appropriate. Very well done.
Jan Ackerson 12/04/06
So witty and fun to read! I love this one.
Debbie OConnor12/04/06
I love the confident, casual style you used to tell this story. Great job!
James Clem 12/04/06
Fun Fun Fun! This deserves to be in the book!
Jen Davis12/04/06
I liked the scene at the kitchen table and the humor throughout this piece. Yeah, we can relate! Thanks for a fun read.
Donna Powers 12/05/06
Very amusing and SO easy to relate to. I loved this! Thanks fir sharing it.
Marty Wellington 12/05/06
Great story--boy can most parents relate to the school volunteer duty. Your storytelling rings true. It is truly delightful reading.